First trip to Cyprus - Part 1
It started well with a 9am flight from Birmingham airport with Monarch, although you could check-in and leave luggage from 6am onwards (no queue and they offered to put one of our 10kg hand luggage in the hold for free). Even security was quick with no real queue. It is a 4.5 hour flight, but the transfer from Larnaca airport to Coral Bay took another 2.5 hours so it was 7pm before we finally got to our room.
As there was no sun on the balcony, and it was a bit dark and doomy, we asked if there was a chance to change rooms on the first morning – they were very good and gave us a key to look at one on the other side of the block which was great. Day 1 to explore, so turn right out of the gardens for Coral Bay beach, turn left for the ‘strip’ with bars and restaurants and a few small shops. On the second lot of sun cream by lunchtime – 27C!
First impressions of the Crown Resorts Hotel? There is a very pleasant lobby, seating areas plus bar. The buffet restaurant has a good selection of food and you could be vegetarian with no trouble. All-inclusive means free drinks at meals, of course, unless you want to buy a specific bottle of wine, which is just as well as drinks in the hotel bar are very expensive - €4.90 for a Tia Maria if you are all-inclusive but a massive €7.50 if not.
Rooms are a bit tired, shower head in both rooms a bit temperamental (must-have item for travel bag is a cable tie!), and the hair-dryer nozzle kept falling off. No free WiFi anywhere in hotel, and very expensive to buy at €10 for 2 hours over a 7-day period. Find free WiFi in the local bars or cafes instead. Evening entertainment is very poor with Bingo 9.30pm every evening, most nights followed by karaoke. This is definitely NOT entertainment in a 4-star hotel as awful people who cannot hold a tune bombard everyone with their screeching. Music was so loud in this lobby/bar area, with no quiet area to escape to, that by the end of 2 weeks people had complained so much, they turned it down a bit.
Although Leslie was poorly for a couple of days, we did manage to watch England beat Wales (just) in the 6 Nations rugby shown at the Blazing Saddles pub across the road. There are a lot of different bars and restaurants along the main street (referred to as the ‘strip’), with some really high-quality cuisine on offer. Whether you want traditional Cypriot meze, typical Mediterranean foods, steak or fish and chips, you can find it in this very small town just along from Coral Bay beaches.
Coral Bay itself has several small bays, some with sandy beach areas but mostly shingle, lots of activities in the summer months but little going on in early March. However, by the end of our 3 week stay, areas had been tidied up, shrubs cut back, and lots of rough ground flattened as car park areas for visitors. The 615 bus is great as it takes you directly into Paphos, runs every 15 minutes until after 11pm, and is €1.50 each way.
Harbour town of Paphos
This is one of the main tourist locations in Sothern Cyprus and a lot of money is being spent to improve the infrastructure. Paphos is the European Capital of Culture in 2017 so there are lots of events taking place throughout the year (visit www.pafos2017.eu for more details). The harbour is a lovely area to stroll around, lots of bars and restaurants and a range of boats from a ‘Nautilus’ submarine simulator, beautifully preserved wooden sailing ship and local fishing boats to the millionaires’ high-tech modern craft.
If you continue walking south along the harbour front, still easy walking along wide paths, there is a fascinating glimpse of the pools and gardens at the back of the many 4-star and 5-star hotels at this end of town, all carefully maintained. A little further on is the stone marking the Sunset Point of the island, the best place for photographs as it sets.
This area of Cyprus is the archaeology lover’s dream. So many things to see! Most visitors look for the Tombs of the Kings first, a fascinating site just outside the town and only half-price €1.25 if you are over 65 – excellent value. We spent ages looking into and around the Tombs, a very big site with most of it open to explore (health and safety is not a priority here). We then walked the paved coastal path down to the harbour, past the lighthouse and around the point to come out at the Castle. It is a good distance but worth it.
Probably better for another day rather than straight after this walk, the highlight for visitors must be the Archaeological site of Kato Paphos, the modern entrance gate at the Castle end (north) of the harbour. It is easy to say these words, but this truly was an amazing site to visit and we spent most of the day there. You must start with the visitor centre and see information about the many birds and flowers found here, but whatever you do, find time to watch the film about how they found, rolled up like a carpet, cleaned, rolled up again and laid back where they found the magnificent floor mosaics from the Roman period. Walk around the raised platforms and look down on what looks like a huge carpet, such detail and clear colours that you cannot believe it is made up of tiny chips of marble. How can you show eyebrows in such detail in a mosaic?! A well-deserved title of World Cultural Heritage site has been given by UNESCO.
Once in town, visit the Basilica (free) with monumental granite and marble columns and very clear remains of mosaic floors, the whole site having been altered several times from the 1st century BC. It was very impressive and just behind the bars and shops along the harbour front.
For holidays to Cyprus Silver Travel Advisor recommends Sunvil